raspberries

Growing berries can be easy and a wonderfully tasty additions to any garden, even small ones with room for trellised, upward growth. The cane berry group includes blackberries, loganberries, olallieberries and raspberries, all of which are perennials and so will be a permanent and fruitful addition to your garden. Caring for cane berries is important so that your plants bear those beautiful, juicy fruits that lend themselves so well to numerous desserts, smoothies, juices and even wines.

There are two main types of cane berries: The first is everbearing, meaning that the plant will produce two crops per year with a lighter crop in June and a heavier crop in the early fall. The other is the summer bearing variety, which will only fruit once in a season, usually during July. Some of our favorite varieties include thornless black satin blackberries, which produce plump and juicy fruits, loganberries, which are a cross between blackberries and raspberries, fall gold raspberries, which are yellow and very sweet, and olallieberries, which are a cross between blackberries, loganberries and youngberries.

loganberries

Most varieties of cane berries grow best in full sun, but some varieties of raspberries do enjoy afternoon shade if grown in hotter climates. Choose a site with rich, well-drained soil, adding compost if necessary. Cane berries should be planted in the ground in rows or in containers, as their roots and foliage can spread fairly quickly. The plants should be spaced at least 3 inches apart and the rows should be 3 feet wide and 4 feet apart. Use a strong trellis or fence for support, as your growing berries will look for something to stretch out up on.

Cane berries enjoy moist, but not wet, soil. Your watering schedule will be determined by the type of soil  you’ve planted in. Overhead watering is fine for earlier in the season, but soaker hoses or drip lines are best once the canes have flowered as otherwise the fruit can rot. Moist foliage can also cause rust (the leaves will get brown and yellow spots) or mildew, which can affect the quality of the fruit.

Weed the berry rows periodically and mulch them with wood chips, which are acidic and loved by all berries. Healthy plants do not need to be fertilized, but plant food can be added if the plants are looking vibrant or aren’t fruiting well. To apply organic fertilizer rake back the mulch layer and apply the fertilizer around the base of the plant, and then re-cover with mulch.

Air circulation, especially at the base of the plants, is key to a healthy crop of berries. The means that regular weeding and proper pruning of the plants is essential. Canes can be pruned after the last harvest but a few weeks before the first frost. Cut back your old canes and leave 5 to 8 new canes per plant, which can be cut to 5 or 6 feet long and wound or tied on the trellis. Remove any dead, diseased or damaged canes. Side branches can be tipped into pots with soil in them and cut off the vine once roots are established. These potted canes can be used to expand your berry patch or given away, traded or sold. Side branches can also be tipped into the rows in line with the other plants if you originally planted your berries wide and want more per row. 

Image: La Grande Farmer’s Market, fonticulus